There was a time when the phrase 'living as an actress in Korea' was common. It was probably not just because it shows how their position as an actress means many things but also because they live differently from actors and women who live normal lives. But 'living as a female singer in Korea' also strays from leading an ordinary life. Female singers do not have too many choices left to make in order to survive in Korea in 2010 -- most of them are a member of a girl group who signed with an agency in their teens or are singers who pursue sexy styles. Other than that, one can also be acknowledged as one of the few 'diva-style singers' who exude much talent in singing. Yet when these singers enter their thirties, they start worrying about the publics' changed response to them and concerns over how to spend the rest of their lives. Below is an interview with female artist Gummy who talked about how she lives her life as a female musician.
10: I'm enjoying listening to your album. It's a good album.
Gummy: Thank you. What did you like about it? (laugh)
10: You're good at singing ballad songs but I knew you'd be good with music that is more trendy and has a stronger beat to it. It seems you have found a new style starting with "I'm Sorry." It's like a second generation of Gummy has started. (laugh)
Gummy: You're right. I have always wanted to do melodic hip-hop music. That's why I had continuously looked into it. I had sung a few such songs before too although the entire album wasn't like it. It has also become much easier for me to sing songs too because I used to have a hard time singing my past ballad songs live if my throat was in bad shape.
10: Is there a reason you thought of such change?
Gummy: My method of singing had changed a bit upon releasing my "Unplugged" album. I also had a lot of concerns about music. What I had always worried about before "I'm Sorry" was that the public found my music difficult -- they said songs like "No" and "Child adult" were too difficult.
10: [So difficult that] Even being able to sing along to your songs would prove one's singing ability? (laugh)
Gummy: That's right. They had said "Loss of Memory" was difficult but that my songs had become even more difficult. So I increasingly became very worried that my image would become fixed as such a singer. My mania fan base might grow but I would deviate further away from pop music. Even my mom's friends were asking why my songs were so difficult. (laugh) The music that I thought people liked, that even I myself was having a hard time singing, was gradually becoming repulsive for them.
10: I guess that's what good singers must be worried about. They are liked in the beginning because they are good at singing but into the third or fourth album, such music becomes old or difficult while it's scary for the singers to try to change.
Gummy: I really do worry about it a lot. It's also difficult to find the mid-point of what it is the people who want to hear great singing want and what I want to do. And it's difficult figuring out what sort of music won't hurt the pride of other musicians. But what I realized after looking back on the path I've walked up to now, is that everything that everyone says is worth listening to. I wouldn't have been able to sing a song like "Because You're a Man" in the past because I would have worried that people might think the song is too easy. But there is a much wider range of music that I can do now after thinking that I want to do music that I will have fun doing.
10: I think "Because of You" is a song where you tried to figure out where that mid-point is -- trying to maintain the vibe to your album while letting out your vocals at some point.
Gummy: I paid a lot of attention to the arrangement because if it was done like in the past, the song would end up sounding like my old songs. So I focused on making it sound as light as possible and even skipped on an introduction for the song. So I think that's why "Because of You," which was more difficult, got quicker response from fans. I think that's the song that people who want to hear good vocals from me want to hear and I think other people listen to the other songs.
10: You've changed in the sense that you do or do not let out your vocals but emotionally too -- it seems you've become more contemplative. It's as if you're singing about love from a distance.
Gummy: I had always felt that way [about my songs] but I wasn't able to show it because I think the public always wanted to see me in agony and cry out when I'm sad. Of my ballad songs, I like my hit songs too but I liked the remake of "He is Far Away" better. That's why I became very worn out and I didn't like becoming that person because of what people think of me when I'm actually not that person. But after being asked why I keep doing such difficult music, I realized that I don't need to do just that kind of music anymore.
10: Is that why your vocals and melody changed too? It seems like you preferred going with songs with melodies that flow throughout in your latest album -- up till "I'm Sorry," the hook had been emphasized.
Gummy: It wasn't intentional but it ended up coming out that way. I heard that some people said I took the easy way out because it was so easy to listen to. (laugh)
10: They would realize how hard it is when they try and sing it. (laugh)
Gummy: That's right. It's very difficult. (laugh) And the concern I had over "Because You're a Man" was that the woman inside the song obsesses over her love but I'm not like that. But the men and women around me were able to empathize with the lyrics so I just had to do it. (laugh) Because a lot of people liked it. A lot of people also say they don't like it because I don't let out my vocals.
10: Did you sing "Loveless" in more of the way you wanted to? (laugh) I think it would have been difficult to restrain your vocals as much as possible while keeping them strong and trying to make them sound light. Although on the other hand, it was easy to listen to.
Gummy: That's right. I was the most delicate in recording "Loveless." I became worn out recording it but I think the listener doesn't know because it's easy to listen to. (laugh) And my throat wasn't tired but it was difficult trying to express [emotions] delicately. When I tried to keep going, the staff would say we should do it over two days because I have to prolong the energy. "Because of You" was actually easier to sing although singing it live was more difficult because the key was so high. (laugh) But I liked it because it felt like I was wearing the right clothes and it's something I hadn't done before. It was fun expressing something new.
10: You probably talk more with the producers too, the more you pay attention to details and the consistency of your music.
Gummy: I'm always interested in the producing. Because you're not done with your job by just singing a song that someone has written. I make a song based on continued discussions and producing the song together.
10: what do you ask of the producers?
Gummy: We make the vibe of the album consistent when we're working on the arrangements and before that, I explain the music I like or the performance I would want to put on. The first thing I do is sing the songs. The singer has to sing the songs to bring out their color. That's why I record the guide vocals first. Many of the people I work with have worked with me for a while now so they know what I like. They probably had a hard time working with what I want.
10: How was it working it YG Entertainment's musicians like Teddy?
Gummy: It was quite the different experience. Even though I've been with YG, I worked with a lot of people from outside because I sang ballads. And I only started working with them a lot this time around. I'm not someone from outside, yet I wasn't like the other singers at YG who work while hanging out at the agency. I got to talk a lot with Teddy this time around but we had felt a bit uncomfortable around each other in the beginning.
10: You seem to be in a unique position, both in and outside YG. (laugh) Wherever you go, somewhere in the middle?
Gummy: That's right. So it's a bit tiring. (laugh)
10: You must have more concerns because of your position in the industry. Aren't vocalists your age and in your position worried a lot about where they currently stand?
Gummy: There's a certain scope of music one can do because the more you do music, the more you find your domain, but the public wants something else. Some worry that people may get sick of them doing just one type of music while I worry about how I should change. I'm also very worried about aging, and how we should position ourselves amidst the growing presence of idol groups. You can tell who is more popular by just looking at the order that people appear on music shows. Who opens the shows, who closes them. The viewers know it too. That's why singers sometimes feel hurt after just looking at the cue sheet for rehearsals. I felt it with my last album too but even more so with this one. People try to judge singers based on their position rather than their singing abilities. That's what makes me more sad.
10: You must have a hard time figuring what to do because girl groups have taken over much of the market.
Gummy: I think that's why everyone is quite depressed these days. They are depressed. Male singers whom I never really kept in touch with have been contacting me, saying we should all keep in touch. (laugh)
10: How do you feel when you see idol singers these days?
Gummy: First of all, I'm impressed with their talent. Back in the days, I don't think anyone ever got as good as their seniors, no matter how hard one would practice. But I'm worried about them working from such a young age. I'm worried about a lot of things even though I debuted after living a normal life so I think they would have such concerns from an even younger age. Because they know too much about the world too quickly. And they may not know how to deal with difficulties. These days, I feel empty on free days. I also wonder why I live my life in such a way and why I made the album.
10: You must also become increasingly indifferent to life.
Gummy: That's right. Nothing is changing. When I don't have work, I exercise at the agency, receive lessons and learn Japanese and English. I almost never drink either unless it's an official setting.
10: Does it have an effect on your music? It seems that you let everything go with the flow in your latest songs.
Gummy: I constantly think about how to live a happy life, how to live a comfortable life. Before, I used to think of how to live each day to the fullest but now, I think about what I want, and what the return will be when I fulfill that desire. But I think I'm always the same when it comes to love. It's been a while since I've loved someone so I wondered whether my emotions would have dried up but when I sang of it, I realized it's still there. I think loving and parting are always all the same. You don't know what to do and bother yourself when you break up with someone although you know you'll be okay after a while.
10: And music is repetitive too. It's nice gaining popularity when you first debut but now you know that you have to do music again even if you are already popular.
Gummy: I've decided not to think about that starting a few days ago. (laugh) Such thoughts would make me feel more frustrated and lost so I told myself I won't think about it. But I will keep doing music till I die so I hope people who like my music will continue to sympathize with it. I don't think about anything outside of that. But I do sort of want to go back to singing ballads like I did in the beginning. There are still many people who like songs like the ones I sang in my first album. But now I want to sing songs that I can feel rather than just sing in consideration of the public. I want to do music which is me from both the past the present.
10: It's been almost ten years since you have debuted. What has changed?
Gummy: In the past I used to think being a singer would be all fun. I beared through the times with my sole passion to become a singer and I thought all would be okay when I become one. But now I know that that's not just it. I had a hard time back then but I beared through it because I wanted to sing and things are still tough but again, I bear through it because I like to sing.
Source: asiae.co.kr - 1 & 2